Dutch Oven Delight

By Keith Fisher

Yesterday, I promised to talk about things to do with Dutch ovens. The past few days we've talked about the World Championships, and I realize competing isn't everyone's cup of Herbal tea. Some people love cooking outside, some people (hushed tones) don't use Dutch ovens.

A lot of good folks use a skillet on the camp stove, or they've mastered the art of the barbcue. I posted an article here, once, and spoke about gas barbcues. I showed a picture of the bells and whistles and made me and many other men salivate.

Today I want to talk about the DOG. It's an acronym for Dutch oven gathering. There are families and clubs who get together often and have pot luck parties, centered around outdoor, (Dutch oven) cooking. You can join a group that meets once a month or so, for this purpose.

At a Dog there are people who can help you. They can teach you, you can teach them. you can swap stories and eat great food. I will give you information that will help you find a Dog near you.

In the meantime, I want to show you this poem, Written by Dee McMillan, and read by her, in the cook's meeting at Worlds. Dee is from Louisiana, living in Utah and She's a Dutch oven enthusiast.

The Life of a D.O.G.

A real dog, I’m not talking about
but Dutch Oven Gatherings also known as a cookout.
It is where friends gather around and cook in cast iron pots over charcoal
and you can do it any time in the heat or the cold.
Yep all seasons, summer, winter, spring and fall,
and it is a lot of fun had by all.
All kinds of cooking you can do
boiling, baking, and cooking stew.
New things folks are always trying
roasting, steaming and even frying.
It is something folks have been doing for hundreds of years
and from its popularity it will be going on a whole lot longer it appears.
Just throw a few coals together and get them hot
and prepare what you are going to cook and put it in the pot.
Put some hot coals on the ground
and then place your pot down.
Cover with some more coals and just sit back and wait
and when it’s done grab a plate.
You are never too young or too old to learn
and it doesn’t even matter if it burns.
It is all about being outdoors and being with friends
and it looks like it will never end.
Yep, I imagine when you get to heaven and beyond the Pearly Gates,
you will see some of your old cooking mates.
And Dutch ovens they will be gathered around
that’s where your old friends will be found.
But in Heaven a Dutch oven will no longer be made of cast iron, but of gold
so I guess Dutch Oven Gatherings will never get old.

Dee McMillan

International Dutch Oven society has chapters all over. There are other Dutch oven groups that provide cammeraderie, also. Go to the IDOS website and check out the chapters. Also check out the links.

Also, I promised a recipe today. Click on the link and take a look. Remember this recipe is copyrighted.


What is a Field Judge?

By Keith Fisher

“Hey, Virgil, what do you think of that corn field over thar?”
“It ain’t as pretty as that filed of wheat.”
“Are you crazy? The hog waller is prettier than that wheat field.”
“Come on, Lamar, look at the way those wheat stocks wave in the wind. It reminds me of the amber waves of grain from the song.”

I used to think of a conversation like this when I heard the term field judge. When I found out what they do, I soon found out their job is so much more.

In a Dutch oven cook off, the field judges keep watch over sanitation. It’s their job to make sure cooks use safe food handling practices, and take meat temperatures. Today, it’s for the safety of the taste judges, but in the days of sample distribution, it was to protect the public.

Traditionally, the winners of a cook off, were asked to come back next year and field judge, Now they are chosen by the event director. We had good ones at the championship this year.

I had the chance to speak with most of them and renew acquaintances. I asked them what it was like judging in the world championship.

Ron Hill said, “Very nice. Especially in this competition, these are all great cooks.”

Brian Terry told me, “It’s an excellent job. No responsibility—no pressure—I get to eat.”

“I like that idea too,” Bruce Tracy said. “The level of competition is so high, and the talent, so intense, that there’s not a lot for a field judge to help the teams with. They already know it all at this level.”

Kent Mayberry kept a close eye on procedures, saying, “It’s all about food safety.”

One of the duties of a field judge is to check Dutch ovens for cleanliness. What kinds of things are you looking for?

Well, today,” Kent said. “We lifted a lid on one of these ovens and you could smell an odd smell coming from the inside the pot. It’s just an automatic, not pleasant smell. It wasn’t quite rancid, but it was strong enough to wonder.”

“So I asked the team to take it outside, smoke it out, and re-oil it. Or what you can do is put water in and boil the rancid out. 99% of the ovens were good today, but you can smell when the oil has gone rancid, you get an initial shock.”

“It’s better to tell the team to boil it out now, then to let the food judges taste the rancid. If it’s rancid, I’m 99% sure they won’t advance to the finals.”

Brian, who was judging the finals on Saturday, said he didn’t smell the ovens. He just asked if they had cooked in them yesterday, or the day before. They had, so he didn’t need to check them.

On a personal note: Rancid oil isn’t the only thing a judge is looking for. In a cook off (Not the worlds) I came across a whole set of ovens that hadn’t been cleaned. There was food stuck to the inside of one of them. It was embarrasing to tell a friend they needed to clean their ovens before they could start.

So, guys if the cooks in this competition are so good, what exactly do you do?

Ron Hill said, “Try to look busy so I don’t get fired.”

“Even at this level, people make mistakes,” Kent said.

“If we see something really blatant we might mention it to them.” Bruce said.

Brian said, “I look for licking fingers. Keeping meat out to long, we check the meat temperatures to make sure they’re in the safe range, but in this level of competition, generally, there isn’t a problem.”

There was a time when the field judges were looking for reasons to remove points. I’m glad they have become a source of help to the cooks. If a cook makes a mistake, the field judges are there to help.

Listen to the rest of my interview with Brian and Bruce. They kept saying that the level of competition didn’t leave them much to do. So, I asked what kinds of things they would be looking for in different cook off.

Next time, we’ll talk about some of the things you can do in a Dutch oven.
And a recipe or two.


The Main Event- New World Champions

By Keith Fisher

When the smoke cleared, we listened as Ranes Carter made the announcements:

1st Place ~ Brian and Lisa Blodgett
2nd Place ~ Bev Shepherd and Pamela Lane
3rd Place ~ Wil and Jen Ward
4th Place ~ Rex and Laura McKee
5th Place ~ Dale and Dana Jensen
It was a great cook off, not because the dishes were all superb, but because it was like the old days. It wasn't the tent, but everyone had a good time. Terry Lewis remains the only person to win twice, and Omar and Diane will be back next year. Brian and Lisa Blodgett are great cooks and friendly competitors. We even had two teams from Brittish columbia. After not placing last year, Bev Shepherd and Pamela Lane came back and took second. Wil and Jen took third.

As I said it would be at the outset, What a horse race. I have enough material for several blogs, and I got to chat with many of my old friends. It was fun, chatting about the old days, comparing some of the rules of the past to today.

Many of us observed the quality of food is much better. I admit it would be hard, but as one former champion said, "The cooks today couldn't help but be better, they had us to learn from."

That is more true than arrogant. I learned from those who came before me. The great cooks who made beef stew and won.

Tomorrow, I will talk to the field judges (as promised . . . for three days). In the coming days, We'll talk to Rosa Sanchez, 2002 champion. We'll talk with Brian Terry and Bruce Tracy about the old days. Ron Clanton about his recollections of IDOS. Carol Hill, about how she got involved in Dutch oven cooking.

We'll hear from Ron Hill, and Kent Mayberry, former IDOS presidents, and showcase Dee Mcmillian, Poet and Dutch oven cook.

All of that, and since it's spring we'll talk about cooking in your backyard. It's warm today, time to think about getting out and cleaning up the the tools get those pots ready. On your mark, get set, and go.